Program coordinators act as the core organizer of the VMN program in their town or towns. They maintain contact with VMN participants and help organize volunteer projects. They attend field trainings for free and also receive a stipend for the year.
VMN Hinesburg (2019-21) & Bristol 5 Town (2018-19)
Chris Runcie is a Naturalist/Educator for Four Winds Nature Institute, teaching natural science programs to adult volunteers in elementary schools. Chris was a lead author of Nearby Nature, the book and website that support Four Winds’s Nature Program. She especially enjoyed writing the playful puppet shows that frame each unit and performing them for the children.
Chris has a BA in Environmental Studies from Middlebury College where she studied fruit fly mate selection, and a PhD in Zoology from the University of North Carolina where she did research on termite recruitment behavior. While at UNC, she also took part in spring birdsong surveys and developed a love of birds and an ear for identifying their songs and calls. Moving back to Vermont in the ‘80s, Chris joined the Forest & Field Club, gaining much local natural history knowledge from this avid group of naturalists. She has taken part in their biannual bird counts and organized their monthly nature programs for many years. She also joined the Lewis Creek Association, and through their educational programs she learned about wildlife tracking, benthic macroinvertebrates, mussels, mudpuppies, and more. Chris is thrilled to be a part of the VMN program, for she takes great delight in exploring, teaching, and learning about the natural world with students young and old.
VMN South Burlington (2019-2020)
Bert grew up in a suburb of New York City where her fondest memories were of catching tadpoles and frogs in brooks, spotting jellyfish and mussels at the beach, trips to the Bronx Zoo, camping with her family, and fishing and crabbing off Long Island. In her early teens she read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring which first opened her eyes to ecology. Joanna Macy was the next strong influence. When it came to career choice, it was between environmental education and nursing. Fast forward to 35 years later, and she finally gets to focus on environmental education via the Vermont Master Naturalist program.
While a neophyte in all things nature, she took side trips from nursing to pay attention to the outdoor world: as an educator for school children at Shelburne Farms, a ropes course instructor, a bike tour leader, and a freelance writer on agricultural and environmental issues for local papers. She co-led the Charlotte Sustainable Living Network for five years, an action that grew out of one of the groups she led for the Vermont Earth Institute. As a land steward for the community she lived in, she helped educate about invasives management and the wisdom of late season brush hogging for preserving vital nests. She raised chickens and bees, and worked in the community garden. She has happy memories of bringing her children, Gianna and Christina, on outdoor adventures: camping in Cape Cod and Vermont, hiking Mt Philo, Snake Mt, and the Greens, and paddling on the LaPlatte River and Kettle Pond in Groton State Forest. She is currently a water sample collector for South Chittenden River Watch (a project of the Lewis Creek Association) on McCabe’s Brook in Shelburne. She is a nurse educator at Wake Robin and loves to play and learn outside any chance she can.
VMN Mad River Valley (2020-2021)
Curt Lindberg is a relatively new resident of Vermont. He lives in Waitsfield with his wife Claire in a new passive certified house built by his son. His interest in nature and its protection stems from time outdoors and his doctoral study of complex systems. Since moving to the state, he’s devoted himself to learning about unique features of nature in Vermont, connecting with naturalists and leaders of conservation organizations and exploring the land. As a result of an amazingly rich learning experience in the Vermont Master Naturalist Upper Winooski Watershed Program, he offered to help bring VMN to the Mad River Valley. His other nature related priority is introducing E. O. Wilson’s Half-Earth Project to the state and facilitating the creation and activities of the Vermont Alliance for Half-Earth.
A nature highlight from Fall 2020 was a Saw-whet Owl banding experience at North Branch Nature Center shared with his granddaughter Maddie, and daughter Kristen. After the event Maddie declared she wanted to be a naturalist!
VMN Burlington (2020-2021) & Williston (2018-2019)
Laura Meyer grew up in upstate New York, collecting fossils, looking at pond plankton under an old microscope, and thinking about the evolution of various forms of life. After graduating with a degree in biology from Wells College in Aurora, New York she decided to pursue a graduate degree. When she drove up the Vermont side of Lake Champlain to visit the Department of Zoology at the University of Vermont she was struck by the beauty of the state. She stayed and received her Master’s degree where she studied the colony structure of a local ant, Myrmica punctiventris. After becoming enamored with her study organism, Laura went on to get her doctoral degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder investigating the genetics of social behavior using a local ant species from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. She spent part of that time abroad in Costa Rica immersed in the natural history of that country through the Organization for Tropical Studies, and conducted independent research there on, of course, ants.
Laura, and her soon to be husband, Stuart, decided that since they thought Vermont was the most beautiful place in the world they would move there, get married, and figure out jobs so that they could stay in Vermont forever. After a stint as a biology professor at Connecticut College and then SUNY Plattsburgh, Laura shifted focus to raising, and adventuring with, her two children Greg and Kate. With Williston as their home base they hiked, biked, paddled, sailed, skied and horse-backed through their childhood. Laura recently completed the first draft of a book about outdoor family adventures in the Champlain Valley.
VMN 2018 – 2019
VMN South Burlington
Sophie fell in love with nature on her first canoe camping trip, immediately prompting her to drop all plans to become a veterinarian and golden retriever breeder in favor of wildlife biology and wolves. She landed her dream job as a naturalist in Algonquin Park (the same spot where she first camped), but after four years sharing the stories of that land, she felt stirred by the conviction that people shouldn’t have to travel to a 3000 square mile wilderness to find connection with nature. She traded that wilderness for the urban wilds of Toronto, where she was exposed to the idea of forest schools and nature mentoring, and she found the magic of coyote trails and wild edibles growing right in the heart of Canada’s largest city.
UVM’s Field Naturalist Program drew her to Vermont, and this project-based Master’s program saw her writing a management study and subsequent management plan for Red Rocks Park in South Burlington. Seeing an opportunity to connect kids to South Burlington natural areas, she started the Red Rocks Nature Camp, then took a job leading summer camps and a forest preschool at Green Mountain Audubon Center, eventually becoming the Center’s Education Director. She moved to her current role as Youth Programs Director at Crow’s Path Field School in 2016. To balance all that time playing with kids in the woods, she manages the Burlington Mammal Tracking Project (trackingvt.org), serves on the board of the South Burlington Land Trust, and is now thrilled to be strengthening the naturalist community in South Burlington through the VMN program.
VMN South Hero
Guy grew up in the Pacific Northwest, where as a kid he fell in love with the outdoor world through hiking and exploring the little patch of rainforest behind his backyard. He studied restoration ecology at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, which inspired him to follow a career in conservation. Guy followed college working as a wetland biologist, then for Capitol Land Trust in Olympia, before deciding to leave his “normal” life behind and go live and work on a farm in the mountains of Oregon. Guy met his wife Danielle, a Vermont native, in Olympia in 2013, and has been lucky to be with her through all their adventures. Danielle and Guy moved to Vermont in 2017, and Guy fell in love with the character and diversity of the natural world in Vermont, every day finding something new that surprises and intrigues him. Guy is the Programs Director for South Hero Land Trust (SHLT) and is thrilled to be part of the team coordinating the local Master Naturalist program, as well as taking part as a participant!
The SHLT staff and board are excited to be partnering with the Vermont Master Naturalist Program. South Hero has unique geologic and biologic elements that create a fascinating mix of important natural areas as well as productive farmland that the group will study in depth. SHLT is a non-profit organization with the mission of protecting the farmland, woodland, natural and recreational areas, and open spaces which help give South Hero its distinctive quality of life.
Kate grew up in New York and New Jersey with a father who loved raptors, hiking and the outdoors, and who cultivated a sense of wonder about nature. After graduating from college with a degree in English, she went on to work as a community organizer for the Prometheus Radio Project, building and supporting low power radio stations around the country. After ten years of grassroots organizing, her heart and body yearned for outdoor work, and she took a job for two seasons as First Mate on a small daysailing wooden schooner.
Life then brought her to the University of Vermont, where she obtained an MS in Natural Resources, taking classes primarily in UVM’s Field Naturalist program. Her graduate thesis – a place-based oral history project focused on the lower Winooski intervale – linked two abiding interests, storytelling and ecology. During the summer, Kate worked catching queens at French Hill Apiaries in Franklin County. She now works as a beekeeper for French Hill full-time during the season, and continues her storytelling and media work through oral history projects (including working as a field interviewer for the Vermont 70s Project) and volunteering on the Radio Advisory Council for WBTV-LP, Burlington’s newest low power radio station. She also works as a guest teacher in the Winooski School District. Kate is delighted to be working with Vermont Master Naturalist to build capacity for local stewardship and conservation education in communities across the state.
Banner photo by Kate Blofson.